PerspectiveMaterials Science

Atoms on the move—finding the hydrogen

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Science  17 Mar 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6330, pp. 1128-1129
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam8616

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Hydrogen wreaks havoc in many alloy systems, leading to embrittlement that can cause catastrophic failure. This is a serious issue for any industry that produces or uses hydrogen—affecting production, transport, storage, and use—and is a real challenge for the development of a hydrogen economy. However, the design of new materials that resist hydrogen embrittlement is limited by the difficulty of experimentally measuring or observing hydrogen; precisely locating hydrogen at the atomic scale is a notorious challenge in materials science. Other examples of where this information is required include the development of fuel cells, the prevention of corrosion, and the improvement of catalytic processes. On page 1196 of this issue, Chen et al. (1) directly observe the precise, atomic-scale, three-dimensional (3D) distribution of hydrogen atoms within matter by using a new approach to atom probe tomography that utilizes deuteration, cryogenic transfer, and sophisticated data-analysis algorithms.